The push for lacrosse at Maria Carrillo

The SRLC Vikings walk off the field together after a hard fought match against Elk Grove (Photo courtesy of Cindy Lui)

By Cohen Ferrari, staff writer

Public and private high schools in Sonoma County as well as neighboring counties in the same leagues all have lacrosse teams to represent their schools. These include Petaluma, Windsor, Casa Grande, Rancho Cotate, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Academy, Cardinal Newman, St. Vincent de Paul, Vintage, and Justin-Siena. All of these schools routinely play against the Pumas in most other sports, which raises the question: If so many others in the area have established lacrosse teams, why not Carrillo? 

Although it first gained prominence on the East Coast, lacrosse is a sport that is rapidly spreading throughout the West. However, Maria Carrillo High School is yet to establish a team. The highly physical contact sport is most distinguishable by the spectacle of its players, with bulky pads, short shorts, and sticks with nets slung over their shoulders made for throwing a small ball into a net at high velocities. According to the Southern California Lacrosse Association, the state has experienced a 27% rise in school lacrosse teams in just the last five years as well as a staggering 225% gain in national participation over the last 15 years. Lacrosse has a lot of momentum spreading to more and more schools, and even though the sport is statistically the fastest growing school sport in the US, MCHS is yet to jump on the bandwagon. 

As of now, the dominant organization pioneering the expansion of youth lacrosse in Santa Rosa is the Santa Rosa Lacrosse Club (SRLC). Since 1994, the SRLC has consistently been adding new teams to their organization, as more and more kids in Sonoma County are being drawn to the sport. A major inconvenience, though, is the fact that club lacrosse teams are widely dispersed throughout northern California, which results in teams from the SRLC having to travel for an upwards of two to three hours just for a single away game on the weekends. As the club has grown, both players and parents alike have expressed interest in introducing lacrosse to local high schools, since the need to travel would be drastically cut down and kids who primarily play lacrosse would be able to represent their schools playing the sport they love.

The general sentiment among students at MCHS seems to be in favor of a lacrosse team. “If Carrillo had lacrosse I would definitely show up for the games. I feel like it would be fun to root for a fast paced sport that is different from football or basketball since we don’t really have a sport like that in the spring season,” said senior Pranav Thyagarajan, a sports enthusiast. Furthermore, most club players on the SRLC Vikings, the local varsity level club team that practices and plays at Montgomery High School, attend Carrillo. “It is a shame that we don’t have a team since I know that most of the Vikings would love to play for Carrillo, and we would probably be one of the better teams in the county,” said Liam McGarva, member of the SRLC Vikings and sophomore at MCHS.

Dave Sherman, coach of the SRLC Vikings, is also in support of a potential team at MCHS. “I would definitely be interested in coaching lacrosse at Maria Carrillo or helping to recruit qualified coaching candidates,” Sherman said. He also mentioned that the SRLC would be in full support of establishing other teams within the Santa Rosa City Schools district, explaining that “[the] club would be a great feeder system to the local high schools.” With clearly a lot of optimism surrounding the establishment of a lacrosse team at Carrillo, why has the push become so stagnant?

The issue of establishing a team at Carrillo lies not within the school itself, but with the entire SRCS district as a whole. According to Jerry Deakins, the athletic director at MCHS, “Carrillo itself cannot make the decision’, [Lacrosse] would have to be at all Santa Rosa City Schools, and the district would have to make that decision.” Another major concern that he addressed was the cost, explaining that reconditioning all the equipment each year and putting lacrosse lines on every field is very expensive. Deakins said that he would support a MCHS lacrosse team; however, he says that it is not his choice and that “the decision has to come from the district.” 

The development of lacrosse is certainly an underdog story. Its fans and players routinely try as hard as possible to push the sport to new horizons, even when lacrosse is not always recognized alongside other popular and well established school sports. However, even with all of the passion, determination, and optimism surrounding the possibility of high school lacrosse, those who want to see MCHS and other Santa Rosa City Schools start lacrosse organizations will have to continue showing the district that it is something the people want, and hopefully, new opportunities for lacrosse at Maria Carrillo will arise with time.

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